Friday, March 25, 2011

Going to Rome

As if the postings around here were not infrequent enough, they will soon be even more infrequent as I take a trip, i.e. pilgrimage, to Rome with my mother, who has never been to the Eternal City. Worry not, a novena will be offered for you and many others.

Before Rome, though, we will be spending a couple of days in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. One of the places we will see is the Convent of San Marco, home of many beautiful frescos and other works by Fra Angelico, including this most breathtaking fresco of the Annunciation --

We will return April 10.


What? No "No Meat on Friday" Today? It's Friday! It's Lent!

Yes, it is a Friday in Lent, typically a day of penance and abstinence from meat. But today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, a day for celebration and feast. Our joy at the Annunciation to Mary, and consequent holy conception of the Lord in her by the Holy Spirit, overcomes any penitential observance. And rightly so.

So, feel free to go have some prime rib today, or a cheeseburger. That does not mean that you must eat meat instead of fish or other non-meat food, but if you do not, eat your fish sandwich, not as penance, but joyfully.

See Canon 1251

Friday, March 11, 2011

St. Joseph and the Fullness of Love in the Theology of the Body

(cross-posted at Cinema Catechism)

At first, it appears that we know very little about St. Joseph, and it is true that not much is said about him in the Gospels. Nevertheless, we can discern a great deal from scripture, as well as from Sacred Tradition. But the Blessed Virgin Mary also has something to teach us about her Joseph.

As with Mary, God chose Joseph for his role in salvation history. When an angel appeared to tell him to not be afraid to take the pregnant Mary into his home as his wife, that she had conceived through the Holy Spirit, and that he should name the child “Jesus,” Joseph complied and placed himself at the service of the Lord without hesitation. He took Mary, not only into his home, but into his heart, as his wife, and he took Jesus as his own son, accepting the vocations of faithful spouse and father.

Indeed, one might argue that Joseph’s “Yes” to God was a greater act of faith than the “Yes” given by Mary at the Annunciation. After Mary had disclosed that she was with child, all of the evidence pointed toward Mary being unfaithful -- she was pregnant, he had not been with her, she didn't have a prior husband, she didn't claim to have been accosted, and that story that she was with child through the Holy Spirit lacked all credibility. But Joseph also knew that such infidelity and lying were totally against Mary's character, which he knew to be good (but certainly he could not know exactly how good and holy), and he knew that he loved Mary.

So, he had a quandry. He was conflicted. His head told him one thing, but his heart wanted to tell him something else.

When the angel visited him, Joseph could have very easily disbelieved it as merely an act of his subconscious during a dream. It is true that one in Mary's position could also have easily dismissed the visit from the angel at the Annunciation as an overactive imagination (even though being full of grace), but the message to her was soon confirmed by her pregnancy and the fact that Mary knew that she had not been with a man. However, Joseph had nothing of this world to confirm that she had not been with another man, but had instead conceived through the Holy Spirit. Joseph had only Mary’s word for it, and the word of what easily could have been his imagination in a dream.

Now, the Gospel states that Joseph was a righteous man, a just man. God is also righteous and just, but He tempers His justice with mercy, which, properly understood, does not contravene the Law, but fulfills it. It is interesting, then, that some 30 or so years later, when Jesus was confronted with the woman caught in adultery, the penalty under the Law for infidelity being death by stoning, He would respond in similar fashion, with mercy.

In saving Mary (and the unborn Jesus) from stoning to death – which Joseph had decided to do before the visit from the angel -- his was an act of mercy. It is a mercy born of love. Joseph loved (and loves) Mary, even after the stunning revelation that she was pregnant. Here was evidence of infidelity staring him right in the face, but he did not want to believe it. He loved her, and besides, he knew her character, that she would never do such a thing. So, he acted with mercy, which was the just and righteous thing to do, even if it did not appear so to worldly men, especially since Mary was, in fact, entirely innocent.

After the angel’s visit, notwithstanding good reason for doubt, Joseph placed his trust in Mary and his faith in God. He reasoned with his heart, rather than his head. Instead of demanding proof, instead of putting God to the test, without having any evidence – against the worldly evidence even – Joseph made a supreme act of faith. Joseph acted on love.

It was not until the shepherds showed up at the stable after the birth of Jesus, explaining that an angel had appeared to them announcing the good news of the birth, that Joseph had any tangible confirmation that he was right to believe in Mary – he was right to act on love and have faith in God.

Joseph was a model of love – true love – not the false so-called “love” of feelings and emotions, of making himself happy, of satisfying his own wants and desires, but true and complete love, the intense longing of purified eros and sacrificial gift of self of agape (See Deus Caritas Est). The spousal love of Joseph for Mary, and the spousal love of Mary for Joseph, was made complete by their spousal love for God, and it was in that fullness of love that the virginal marriage of Joseph and Mary was both unitive and procreative.

The spousal meaning of the human body, male and female, is not merely one of complimentariness, but shows that we are made for relationships that are (a) unitive, which brings about, not simply a partnership, but communion with the other, a mystical transcendental joining with the other such that many become one, and (b) creative, a fruitfulness that is not limited to the biological (sexual), but is transcendent; it was by the love of the Logos that the universe itself was created. In this way, although Mary and Joseph never “consummated” the marriage in the flesh (i.e. sexually), one can say that the marriage was a real marriage, made complete and whole spiritually, in the spirit of love. Their virginal marriage was unitive and fruitful in that very virginity, i.e. in their complete gift of self to God and, therefore, complete gift to each other, intimately receiving the other’s heart into his or her own person in the fullness of love.

The Holy Family is the “Church in miniature” and, together with Jesus, Joseph and Mary mirror the Trinity, a loving communion of three persons in one family, one body. Their spousal love resulted not only in communion with each other and God, but was fruitful — not only the Child they raised together and shared in spirit, if not the flesh (cf. St. Augustine, De nuptiis et concupiscentia, I:12-13), but also all those children who call His Father their Father. Joseph is protector and defender of, and provider for, Mary and Jesus and, hence of the entire Church. As such, he is a father to the children of the Church.

There is also an eschatological significance to their relationship, that is, their marriage looks forward to the New Jerusalem when we will not be given in marriage in heaven. That is, relationships will not be sexual, but will be as the virginal spousal love between Mary and Joseph. If we wish to know what eternal life in the resurrection of the body will be like, we do well to look at Joseph and Mary, a loving communion of persons, a love that is more complete and bears more fruit than any that can be conceived of in this world.

The Eschatological Significance of the Marriage of Joseph and Mary
Venerable Pope John Paul II
Catechesis on the Theology of the Body, March 24, 1982
In the kingdom of heaven “they take neither husband nor wife” (Mt 22:30). It is a charismatic sign. The human being, male and female, who, in the earthly situation, in which “they take wife and take husband” (Lk 20:34), freely chooses continence for the kingdom of heaven, indicates that in that kingdom, which is the other world of the resurrection, “they will take neither husband nor wife” (Mk 12:25), because God will be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

This way of existing as a human being, male and female, indicates the eschatological “virginity” of the risen man, in which, I would say, the absolute and eternal spousal meaning of the glorified body will be revealed in union with God Himself, by seeing Him “face to face,” glorified moreover through the union of a perfect intersubjectivity that will unite all who participate in the other world, men and women, in the mystery of the communion of saints. . . .

Mary's motherhood is virginal, and to this virginal motherhood corresponded the virginal mystery of Joseph, who, following the voice from on high, did not hesitate to "take Mary...for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:20). . . .

The history of the birth of Jesus is certainly in line with that "continence for the kingdom of heaven" of which Christ will speak one day to his disciples. However, this event remained hidden to the men of that time and also to the disciples. Only gradually would it be revealed to the eyes of the Church on the basis of the witness and texts of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The marriage of Mary and Joseph (in which the Church honors Joseph as Mary's spouse, and Mary as his spouse), conceals within itself, at the same time, the mystery of the perfect communion of the persons, of Man and Woman in the conjugal covenant, and at the same time the mystery of this singular “continence for the kingdom of heaven”: a continence that served the most perfect “fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit” in the history of salvation. Indeed, in a certain sense it was the absolute fullness of that spiritual fruitfulness, since precisely in the Nazareth conditions of the pact of Mary and Joseph in marriage and in continence, the gift of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word was realized. (emphasis added)


See also Pope John Paul II, Mary and Joseph Lived Gift of Virginity
Fr. Walter Schu, Virginity and Theology of the Body
Fr. Florent Raymond Bilodeau, The Virginity of Saint Joseph in the Latin Fathers and Medieval Ecclesiastical Writers

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Journey with the Lord in Lent

Address of Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience

Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, marked by the austere symbol of ashes, we enter the Lenten season, beginning a spiritual journey that prepares us to celebrate worthily the Paschal Mysteries. The blessed ashes placed on our heads are a sign that reminds us of our condition as creatures; they invite us to penance and to intensify our commitment to conversion to follow the Lord ever more.

Lent is a journey; it is to accompany Jesus who goes up to Jerusalem, the place of the fulfillment of the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection; it reminds us that the Christian life is a "journey" to undertake, which consists not so much in a law to be observed but in the very person of Christ, who we must encounter, receive and follow.

Jesus, in fact, says to us: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). That is, he tells us that to arrive with him to the light and the joy of resurrection, to the victory of life, of love, of the good, we must also take up our cross every day, as a beautiful page of the "Imitation of Christ" exhorts us:
"take up your cross and follow Jesus; in this way you will go to eternal life. He went before, carrying his cross, and died for you on the cross so that you would carry your cross and be willing to die on it. Because if you die with him, you will also live with him. And if you are his partner in sorrow, you will also be so in triumph" (L. 2, c. 12, n. 2).
In the holy Mass of the First Sunday of Lent we will pray:
"O God our Father, with the celebration of this Lent, sacramental sign of our conversion, grant your faithful to grow in the knowledge of the mystery of Christ and to give witness of him with a fitting conduct of life" (Collect).
It is an invocation that we address to God because we know that only he can convert our heart. And it is above all in the liturgy, in participation in the holy mysteries, where we are led to undertake this journey with the Lord; it is putting ourselves in Jesus' school, reflecting on the events that brought us salvation, but not as a simple commemoration, a memory of past events. In the liturgical actions, where Christ makes himself present through the power of the Holy Spirit, those salvific events become actual.

There is a key word to which recourse is often taken in the liturgy to indicate this: the word "today"; and it must be understood in its original, not metaphorical sense. Today God reveals his law and lets us choose today between good and evil, between life and death (cf. Deuteronomy 30:19); today "the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15); today Christ died on Calvary and has resurrected from the dead; he has ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father; today we are given the Holy Spirit; today is the favorable time. To participate in the liturgy means, therefore, to submerge one's life in the mystery of Christ, in his permanent presence, to undertake a journey in which we enter into his death and resurrection to have life.

In the Sundays of Lent, in a very particular way in this liturgical year of Cycle A, we are introduced into living a baptismal itinerary, virtually following the journey of the catechumens, those who are preparing to receive baptism, to revive this gift in us, so that our life will recover the demands and commitments of this sacrament, which is at the base of our Christian life. In the message I sent for this Lent, I wished to recall the particular nexus that links the Lenten season to baptism. The Church has always associated the Easter Vigil with the celebration of baptism, step by step: a great mystery is realized in it, by which man, dead to sin, is made a participant in new life in Christ Risen and receives the Spirit of God that resurrected Jesus from the dead (cf. Romans 8:11). The readings we will hear in the forthcoming Sundays and to which I invite you to pay special attention, are taken precisely from the ancient tradition, which accompanied the catechumen in the discovery of baptism: They are the great proclamation of what God does in this sacrament, a wonderful baptismal catechesis addressed to each one of us.

The First Sunday, called Sunday of the Temptation because it presents the temptations of Jesus in the desert, invites us to renew our definitive decision for God and to face with courage the struggle that awaits us to remain faithful to him. The need for this decision, to resist evil, to follow Jesus, is always anew. On this Sunday, the Church, after having heard the testimony of godparents and catechists, celebrates the election of those who are admitted to the Easter sacraments.

The Second Sunday is called that of Abraham and the Transfiguration. Baptism is the sacrament of faith and divine filiation; like Abraham, father of believers, we are also invited to leave our land, to leave the securities we have built for ourselves, to again put our trust in God; the goal is presented in the transfiguration of Christ, the beloved Son, in which we also become "children of God."

In the following Sundays, baptism is presented in the images of water, light and life. The Third Sunday has us meet the Samaritan woman (cf. John 4:5-42). Like Israel in Exodus, we have also received in baptism the saving water; as he says to the Samaritan woman, Jesus has the water of life, which slakes all thirst, and this water is his own Spirit. On this Sunday, the Church celebrates the first examination of the catechumens and during the week gives them the Symbol: the Profession of Faith, the Creed.

The Fourth Sunday has us reflect on the experience of the "blind man from birth" (cf. John 9:1-41). In baptism we are liberated from the darkness of evil and we receive the light of Christ to live as children of the light. We must also learn to see the presence of God in the face of Christ, and thus the light. The second examination is celebrated in the journey of the catechumens.

Finally, the Fifth Sunday presents to us the resurrection of Lazarus (cf. John 11:1-45). In baptism we passed from death to life and we are made able to please God, to make the old man die, to live from the Spirit of the Risen One. The third examination is held for the catechumens and during the week they are given the Lord's Prayer, the Our Father.

This Lenten itinerary that we are invited to follow is characterized, in the tradition of the Church, by some practices: fasting, almsgiving and prayer.

Fasting means abstinence from food but it includes other forms of privation for the sake of a more sober life. But all of this does not yet constitute the full reality of fasting: It is the external sign of an interior reality, of our commitment, with God's help, to abstain from evil and to live the Gospel. He does not really fast who does not know how to nourish himself on the Word of God.

Fasting, in the Christian tradition, is closely linked to almsgiving. In one of his addresses on Lent, St. Leo the Great taught:
"Whatever a Christian does always, he must now do with greater dedication and devotion, to fulfill the apostolic norm of Lenten fasting consisting in abstinence not only from food, but above all abstinence from sins. To this obligatory and holy fast, no more useful deed can be added than almsgiving, which under the unique name of 'mercy' includes many good works. Immense is the field of works of mercy. Not only the rich and wealthy can benefit others with alms, so can those of modest and poor condition. In this way, though unequal in goods, all can be equal in their sentiments of mercy of the soul" (Address 6 on Lent, 2: PL 54, 286).
In his Pastoral Rule, St. Gregory the Great reminded that fasting is holy because of the virtues that accompany it, above all charity, for each gesture of generosity that gives to the poor and needy the fruit of our privation (cf. 19, 10-11).

Lent, moreover, is a privileged time for prayer. St. Augustine says that fasting and almsgiving are "the two wings of prayer," which gives them greater impulse to reach God. He states:
"In this way our prayer, made with humility and charity, in fasting and almsgiving, in temperance and the forgiveness of offenses, giving good things and not returning bad things, removing ourselves from evil and doing good, seeks peace and obtains it. With the wings of these virtues our prayer flies safely and is taken with greater certainty to heaven, where Christ, our peace, has preceded us" (Sermon 206, 3 on Lent: PL 38, 1042).
The Church knows that, because of our weakness, it is very difficult to be silent and to place oneself before God, and to become aware of our condition as creatures who depend on him and sinners in need of his love. This is why Lent invites us to a more faithful and intense prayer and to a prolonged meditation on the Word of God. St. John Chrysostom exhorts us:
"Embellish your house with modesty and humility through the practice of prayer. Make your house splendid with the light of justice; adorn its walls with good works as if they were a patina of pure gold and instead of walls and precious stones place faith and supernatural magnanimity, placing over all things, high on a pediment, prayer as decoration of the whole complex. In this way you will prepare a worthy dwelling for the Lord; in this way you will receive him in a splendid palace. He will enable you to transform your soul into a temple of his presence" (Homily 6 on Prayer: PG 64, 466).
Dear friends, on this Lenten journey let us be careful to accept Christ's invitation to follow him in a more determined and coherent way, renewing the grace and commitments of our baptism, to abandon the old man that is in us and to clothe ourselves with Christ, so that renewed, we will reach Easter and be able to say with St. Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). A good Lenten journey to you all! Thank you!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church

Look what I found at our parish's website --

Father John Cregan speaks about the Blessed Sacrament parish community.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

A Daughter at the Foot of the Cross

Shortly before her passing, while she was in the midst of her own passion, Marilyn's daughter wrote a beautiful and inspiring reflection -- her mom had competed well, she had finished the race. Melissa graciously gives her permission to post this. Next week we will receive ashes on the head and be told to remember, "you are dust and unto dust you shall return." May this reflection be of help in times like these in your own lives.

My Mom's not a Runner, but She Taught Me How to Be One
by Melissa, February 24, 2011
I've spent the last week and a half with my mom here at [the] Hospital. She has stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The lymphoma has passed into her central nervous system, presenting itself in her spinal fluid. It's become clear to my brothers and me that she is nearing the end of her life.

Since I've been here, I've been thinking a lot about running. I haven't run since before Thanksgiving, because I had foot surgery. About a week ago, I looked at my calendar and counted the weeks since I've been out of my walking cast. It was exactly six weeks--and my surgeon told me that I could start running at six weeks; but I told him I would probably wait a little longer. I sort of made up my mind that I would wait till is February 25.

When I came down to [Kentucky] almost two weeks ago, my plans were to come and spend the weekend with my mom and take her to the hospital for the lumbar puncture they planned for her, then I was going to get her settled in and then drive home. My brothers would be spending time with her during the evening. But for some reason, I just didn't want to leave. I wanted to be here when we heard the results of that test, and to be with her as the doctors decided what to do next. My brother Brian was coming down from [New York] on the weekend, and my other two brothers were working during the day, so I thought it might be nice for Mom to have some company during the daytime.

I felt torn about it, but I came back to [Indiana] for a day to take care of some things . . . I came back here the next day. I packed as many shirts, underwear and socks as I could, plus three cardigan sweaters and a pair of dress shoes. I thought about packing my running shoes and some gear, but decided I wouldn't feel like running while I was here.


My mom's lived with lymphoma since 1995. It's 2011, people. That's sixteen years. It's come back maybe two or three times--I don't remember. And, she is 78 years old.

But this time, it was different. Something happened early last year, and we noticed Mom started changing, at least her cognition did. She started saying things that didn't make a lot of sense, or she seemed unreasonable about some things, about decisions that had to be made. Her doctor referred her to a neurologist, because she started having these nasty headaches, and pain in her eye. She was in the hospital in the fall, having been diagnosed with Waldenström's macroglobulinemia, a rare type of cancer. She had to have her blood "cleaned out"--excess protein had built up in it; and so she had to have plasmapheresis performed to bring it back to normal. But her pain came back. In January, the neurologist believed that she had Tolosa-Hunt syndrome, and treated her accordingly with massive doses of steroids to reduce the inflammation they thought had developed around her eye. But the pain returned, and her oncologist searched for the answer in her spinal fluid. If he didn't find it there, he would have biopsied the temporal lobe of her brain.

Indeed, the lymphoma had spread to her spinal fluid. Neither chemotherapy nor radiation could get rid of the cancer this time. The treatment plan shifted to comfort care. Dr. H., Mom's oncologist, said the word "hospice" as three of us kids talked to him on the phone about her prognosis. I swear my heart just about broke in two.


So what does my running have to do with my mom, and the fact that she is dying from cancer?

I've thought a few times about how I'd like to go running since I've been here. Running changed my life when I began 2 1/2 years ago. I discovered not only the physical benefits, but that my life improved mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I started running half-marathons that first year, and it's my favorite race. I've not done a marathon--I've heard they're just hell. I don't have my shoes though, and I need to wear particular shoes that work well with my crazy foot. So I haven't run.

But I've watched Mom over the past couple of weeks now, spending time up here in this room with her. I've watched what most people would call a "decline"--from the unbearable pain she felt because she didn't want to take her pain medicine, to walking around all wobbly, to sitting up, to talking with us in rare lucid moments. She's experiencing many of the signs of approaching death: seeing things or people that we can't, sleeping all the time, the agitation. She completely stopped eating and drinking two days ago. My three older brothers and I have all watched our mom's health deteriorate before our eyes. But I'm seeing something different. I see her moving forward.

Over the past two years, I've run in probably thirty different races. I've never been a good runner, not fast at all. My foot surgeon said to me, "I don't know why you all do it. You all look miserable! Like you're not having a good time at all!" I thought that was kind of funny. Yes, running can be painful and difficult, but we don't do it because we're masochistic; I'd bet that most of my friends would say they run because it's difficult. Why would anyone do that? Because after our run is over, we know we've done something that was a challenge and we accomplished it. The sense of victory we feel, even if not running a race, is there for us at the end of every run--even if it's a bad one.

So I look back over the last two weeks, and I think about my mom running this big, long race. Her race is longer than any one I've ever done. I've been thinking about St. Paul's famous quote from his [second] letter to Timothy: "I have competed well; I have finished the race." (Thank you to Anthony Hopkins for portraying St. Paul in a movie--it's because of him that I remember this quote.)

In the community of running, I've never been good enough to be competitive, but I learned what it means to support other runners. We always want to see our friends run well. Running injuries, illness, age-related foot and leg problems, messed up joints--these all get us down and keep us from running, but we always get back to it. . . . And we cheer each other on. The sound of my friends' voices calling out, "Good job, Melissa!" as I approach a finish line several minutes after them, often gives me that extra surge that I need to fly across it, not hobble.

You often hear runners say, "Run your own race." I've run in events where I tried running with other folks for a while, and sometimes that works. I ran what would have been my fastest 5K ever with my friend Steve (although the distance was cut short by the front-runner who was misguided by course sentries). But I also ran an event last spring, a 12-miler, which I will forever remember as my worst event ever. I ran the first six miles with two buddies of mine, but the pace was too fast; and I begged them to leave me and run ahead after that first half. I finished on my own, completely exhausted and disappointed that I didn't focus on my own pace, and that I had chosen to follow theirs.

When a person is dying, we know that she must do so on her own terms. We may think that a person is very near death, yet they linger. I asked a nurse this morning if it was wrong for me to anticipate my mom's death. Is it wrong for me to look forward to it? I'm certainly not getting impatient, like you'd wait for the cable guy to show up; it's more like this: I don't want her to suffer any more. I don't want for her to have to linger. It's such a strange feeling: we never want to lose our loved ones, but we don't want them to be stuck in place, either.

So I find myself cheering for her. I am on the sidelines, clapping and calling out her name. She has to run her own race; she must complete this journey herself and I cannot do it for her. She cannot go faster, yet I don't want to do anything that would slow her down. I cheer for her, and encourage her.

In the movie "The Passion," we see Simon of Cyrene forced to help Jesus carry his cross. I will never forget the look on the man's face when he realized he had to do it. At first he refused, but he had no choice--the Roman guards gave him no choice. As Jesus journeyed on the way to Calvary, Simon became more and more supportive of him. About halfway there, Simon puts his arm around the cross, and Jesus' shoulder at the same time. And he looks in Jesus' eyes, letting Him know silently that he is there. And as they make it up the hill, Simon says, "We're almost there, almost there." Simon's refusal to accept the burden of help transformed into a passionate commitment to see Jesus to the end. Again, I see the parallel with our mom. She's on a long, challenging journey, but I want to see her through to the end. I want to say, "You can make it, Mom. I will stay beside you as you travel on this path." But I don't carry a cross--I'm just here.

One would think, that if a person dies from cancer, that they are defeated by it. I'm starting to understand, that's not necessarily true. Just as I have never been a fast runner, and I've never won a race, my mother has not "beaten" cancer. But she hasn't been defeated, either. When this is over, we can say with certainty that my mother has fought the good fight; she has kept her eye on the prize. She will have finished the race. And that is the best kind of victory.

As I was reflecting on these things with a nurse this morning, I realized that all the life lessons I thought I had learned from running, I have actually learned from my mom. I see my mom pushing forward through this challenge. She's never given up. She doesn't stop just because it's too hard. She goes the distance--an ultramarathon of races. She goes through this process at her own pace. She'll conclude her life, run her own race, on her own terms--not when I'm ready, or anyone else. And like in my races, she'll go before me, and I know that when it's time for me to run my final race, she'll be cheering for me at the finish.
Marilyn went ahead to the House of the Father on Sunday, after they had prayed the chaplet of Divine Mercy, having also received all the last sacraments.

A few days before that, Melissa gave an update about these final days.
Mom has indeed settled in here in the Hospice Care Center. Yesterday before coming, she was very restless, sitting and standing constantly. Once she came here, everything changed. She relaxed and stopped the standing. She went to sleep, albeit sitting up. Later, she laid her head back. She's been sleeping heavily ever since. She has not taken food or water since Monday.

The staff here have encouraged us to speak quietly, to touch her, and reassure her that she is safe and it's OK to sleep. They also said that she might be afraid -- which I had never even considered. I felt so sad when I realized that I hadn't thought about that. But, the nurse asked her if she was afraid, and Mom somehow indicated that she didn't want to go to sleep; she was afraid she wouldn't wake up.

I have been telling her she's safe and that it's OK to sleep. I've also told her that we will be fine and told her especially that I will be, that C---- will be taking care of me. And I told her that we're taking care of her. I also told her that I've asked for angels to guide her on her journey, and that it's OK to go with them. . . .

Thank you for the prayers and keep them coming. I know He hears every whisper and sees every tear, and it all amounts to love in the end.
The funeral was bittersweet -- sad, but not overly so. The presence of faith helped a lot in that regard. "Blessed are those who mourn." Such faith does not totally eliminate the sadness, but it does provide hope -- the hearts of the mourners are made not so heavy by the Lord's assurance that, by the power of His love, all things are made new, and even death is transformed to life.